This is the day my oldest daughter bought her first car. She worked hard and saved her money. When she was ready to buy, it so happened that a fellow employee knew someone selling a car. The price was right and the car was in beautiful condition with not too many miles for its age. It was a find that doesn't come around everyday and we celebrated our good fortune to have found something so perfect for her. She still didn't have her driver's license yet, so she couldn't drive it without my supervision, but she busied herself buying accessories for the interior in the meantime- a portable phone charger, a dashboard phone mount so she would be hands- free, and an extremely fluffy purple steering wheel cover that, if you only saw from the corner of your eye in passing, might be mistaken for a troll doll at the helm instead of a person. In short, she was happy. High on life and celebrating every step that was bringing her closer to the newfound freedom she was so close to tasting.
The day came for her to take her driving test. We had spent lots of hours practicing on the road, and devoted time to learn to parallel park as well, since she had heard that was a necessity to passing. She is a rather nervous person when she first learns a thing, so when the instructor asked her to put her foot on the brake and she revved the gas, I thought we might be in for a challenge. When she asked her to turn her blinker on and she turned on the windshield wipers instead, I was pretty sure this was going to be challenging to say the least. What was she doing? She knew this stuff! Sigh. All I could do was stand back and watch. The initial errors paled in comparison to what happened next. She was asked to parallel park and back into a parking space, and it literally looked like one of those old black and white comedies where everything is in fast forward motion. As cone after cone were run over by her unsuccessful attempts to complete what was required, I had a sinking feeling that she may not get her license that day. My feeling was solidified when she was told to park the car and hit the curb on the way in. I couldn't believe what I was watching. If this was on TV, I'd be laughing so hard. But I knew she was going to have a meltdown, so I had to straighten up and get my best mom advice ready to.
As anticipated, my daughter failed the test that day and proceeded to lose her mind once we got back in the car. "Everyone is going to know I failed!" "This kind of stuff always happens to me!" And we all know how it feels. We have all had those moments where it seemed like there was not now, never has been, and never will be anything right with the world. But self-care. It is times like this when we really get to see the benefits of our consistent practice. There was a time where I would have continued to chastise her failure, to tell her how ridiculous it was that she performed that way, that she has been driving for a long time now and she very well knew the difference between the gas and the brake pedals. But I could see that she was beating herself up enough and that I certainly didn't need to do anything to make her feel worse. What was happening in that moment was an awareness that I had learned the ability to DECIDE how to react to the situation. That is what we can expect when we put our self-care first. Our brains become healthier and we learn that though we cannot always control what happens in our lives, we can control how we respond to it. Instead I helped her focus on all the parts of that experience that we could be grateful for. We don't know why it happened, but we can have peace that it just wasn't the right time. We can celebrate that at the next attempt, she will go into it knowing exactly what she needs to do. By the time we got home we were laughing about the experience and celebrating that she got to skip school and we had a free day to spend together, complete with a trip to Starbucks. A week later, she passed her test with a 100- a perfect score.
There is no question that it is much easier to celebrate the huge events in our lives than to recognize the tiny miracles that are afforded us everyday. And it can feel nearly impossible to celebrate when things aren't going our way or tragedies strike. Birthday parties, weddings, and baby showers are always a delight. It is important to celebrate ourselves and others with memorable events. But there is much more in this life to celebrate. Small things that happen everyday- like the fact that we woke up this morning, and that we have food to eat, and sun that shines and rain that nourishes and cars that drive and houses that shelter and schools to educate and jobs to make money and families to love and books to read and pets to care for and if you don't have all of these things in your life at least you have some of them and if you are reading this then you have the most important one which is that you woke up today which means that for the most part all the other ones are yours for the taking, so that even when things are not going our way, or even worse, we can learn to remember there is ALWAYS SOMETHING TO CELEBRATE.
Two days ago my daughter was driving the car she had worked so hard for to our house because she had forgotten her cheerleading hair bow and they had a game to cheer for that night. As she was heading back to the school, another driver pulled out in front of her while she was going full speed and she didn't have time to stop. The picture below is what is left of her car that was totaled, while the other car was relatively unscathed. But the shadow in the picture is of my daughter, standing, and taking the picture of the damage. While the car is definitely a loss and it is too soon to know what will happen, we choose to celebrate that the hospital was able to rule out any concussion or internal injuries. That she can look at the long bruise across her neck and chest and the tiny ones on her hand and celebrate that the seat belt and air bags did their jobs. We can celebrate that she even made the sound decision to WEAR her seatbelt. We celebrate the victories in the trauma. We celebrate life.